Eric Baer


Highline Community College

I am an instructor at Highline Community College who teaches a wide variety of geoscience courses including Geologic Catastrophes. I also am a PI on the "Math You Need When You Need It", a project to develop and test online quantitative support modules for introductory geoscience students. I have a particular interest in developing a community of community college faculty to exchange information and ideas about the wide variety of roles that we fill. To that end, I have been involved in several projects that support 2YC faculty attendance and participation at the national meetings of the Geological Society of America. My PhD in volcanology is from the University of California Santa Barbara and my Bachelor's degree in Geology is from Carleton College.  

Materials Contributed through SERC-hosted Projects

Project Leader on these Projects(2)

Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education in Two-Year Colleges part of SAGE 2YC
Strong undergraduate geoscience education is dependent on effective programs at two-year colleges (2YCs). Yet two-year college faculty face substantial challenges limited resources for travel, isolation, and few opportunities for geoscience professional development specific for their setting. This website documents the work of this project to bring resources and opportunities to bear on these issues.

The Math You Need, When You Need It Math tutorials for students in introductory geosciences part of Math You Need
The Math You Need, When You Need It provides web modules to help students succeed with mathematics in introductory geoscience classes.

Activities (11)

Vectors and slope stability part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This homework or in-class activity is designed to teach students with little or no experience with vectors, free-body diagrams, or the like to apply vectors to slope stability problems. Students first learn the basic properties of vectors, vector addition, resolving forces, etc. They then apply these techniques to establish in a simplified way how geologists can determine if a slope is stable, how much loading a slope can withstand to become unstable, and other principles of slope stability determination. This activity is used in an introductory geohazards course with no pre-requisites. It can be completed in one to two hours.

On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Collection This activity is part of the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Activities collection.
Learn more about this review process.

Two streams, two stories... How Humans Alter Floods and Streams part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This is a class activity in which students determine the discharge of a "100-year flood" for two human-impacted streams. They determine the discharge for two time periods on both streams. Students discover that for one stream the discharge of a predicted "100-year flood" has dropped significantly, and on the other it has increased remarkably. Students are lead to a discussion of the 100-year flood and human activities as well as some calculations of probability of exceedence. This activity supports the quantitative concepts of recurrence intervals, floods and flooding, and probability. It is appropriate for a smaller class (under 40 students). This assignment uses real data, asks students to graph and interpret data, examines the errors associated with that data and its analysis (see model limitations) and requires the students to look at societal impacts.

On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Collection This activity is part of the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Activities collection.
Learn more about this review process.

Shaking Ground - Linking Earthquake Magnitude and Intensity part of Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum:General Collection:Examples
An in-class activity for connecting earthquake magnitude, shaking, and intensity.

Earthquake Magnitude - Linking Earthquake Magnitude and Intensity part of Cutting Edge:Geophysics:Workshop 07:Geophysics Activities
An activity that helps students link earthquake magnitude and intensity.

Earthquake Shaking and Damage part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This is a student homework exercise designed to familiarize students with earthquake shaking, acceleration, intensity and hazards, including the quantitative measurement of these properties. Students examine quantitative measurements of earthquake hazard from the U.S.G.S. then use these numbers to determine the damage to their homes (or another location) that could be inflicted by a quake with a 500-year recurrence interval (10% probability of exceedence in 50 years). By using students' own homes, they see the impacts of shaking, hazard, and intensity in a more personal, connected way. This exercise can be used by any one in the United States, but is most apt for those places with high earthquake hazard. It uses the USGS's hazard mapping program's web site that allows anyone to look up earthquake hazard based on zip code, and is available for the entire United States. It also uses a conversion of acceleration to Mercalli intensity from Bolt (1993) and available on-line. Finally, it uses information from the Association of Bay Area Governments (2003) to describe typical damage to buildings of differing types (including different housing styles and ages) from different shaking intensities.

Earth's history in 4.56 meters: constructing a timeline with calculator tape part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
A student activity. Students make a timeline of Earth's history using calculator tape. The tape is 4.56 meters long, so that one billion years is one meter. This activity is designed to have students get an introduction to the scale of Earth's history, gain a familiarity with some major events in Earth's history, learn about scaling, the metric system, and large numbers. This material helps illustrate the concepts of deep time and large numbers.

Angle of Repose part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
In this activity students measure the maximum slope at which grains are stable (angle of repose). They explore how different properties of the sediment influence slope stability and lead to different slope failures (mass movements). The results are then used to examine the nature, frequency, timing, and causes of landsliding events in Seattle. Students make piles from a variety of sediments and measure (either with a protractor or using basic trigonometry) the angle. They examine sediments with different sizes as well as different angularities. They also add water to the piles to evaluate its impact.

Modeling the interior of the Earth using Seismic Waves part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This is an inquiry-based student exercise designed to explore how we use seismic waves to understand the structure of the Earth's interior. Students test several models of the interior of the Earth beginning with a simple homogeneous Earth and moving toward more complex multi-layered Earth models. First, students test the viability of a homogeneous (one-layer) Earth using observed P-wave arrival times throughout the globe. Subsequently, the practicality of a two-layer model is explored as students graphically determine ray paths and travel times and perform simple calculations of Snell's law. Finally, students are asked use a publicly available Java program to calculate wave travel times through a model of Earth that they create (with as many or as few layers as they see fit). The ultimate goal involves student generation of a model that reproduces actual measured seismic travel times as closely as possible.

Determining Earthquake Probability and Recurrence from Past Seismic Events part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
In this homework and in-class exercise, students use real historical data from small earthquakes to estimate the recurrence interval of rare large earthquakes. This activity is designed for the Pacific Northwest, but could easily be altered for any other area. The activity uses the Gutenburg-Richter relationship, which states that the number of earthquakes of magnitude M is proportional to 10-bM. The activity also attempts to get students to examine the limitations of sampling, deal with outliers in a thoughtful way, compare the results of this technique with results of another technique (paleoseismology), and finally to look at the societal impacts of their results.

Driving Through Geologic Time - An analogy part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This is an analogy I use to illustrate the scale of geologic time and our limited view of the Earth's history. I relate the history of the Earth to a drive across the country. The drive is 4560 km (rough distance between Washington D.C. and Seattle), so 1 km is one million years of Earth's history. I use this as a spring board to talk about the limits of our personal perceptions and experiences when making conclusions.

Examining your Earthquake Hazard part of Integrate:Workshops:Engineering, Sustainability, and the Geosciences:Activities
Students look at their seismic hazard and then determine the likelihood that their residence will be uninhabitable after 500-year return interval quake.


Using hazards to engage students part of Integrate:Workshops:Broadening Access to the Earth and Environmental Sciences:Essays
Eric Baer, Geosciences, Highline Community College Highline Community College is located in the Puget Sound region and therefore our students live with multiple geologic hazards including earthquakes, mass ...

Other Contribution

Physical Geology and Quantitative Geology at Highline Community College part of Math You Need:Implementations
Instuctor: Eric Baer, Carla Whittington, Matthew von der Ahe, and Mike Valentine Enrollment: 3-20 Challenges to using math in introductory geoscience As the most diverse community college in Washington State and ...

Events and Communities

The Role of Two-Year Colleges in Geoscience Education Workshop 2010

Career Prep '05 Participants: Leader

NSF Projects Supporting QL Education Participants: Leader

Web-based Resources 2003 Participants

Career Prep '04 Participants: Leader

Infusing Quantitative Literacy into Introductory Geoscience Courses Workshop Participants: PI

InTeGrate Engineering Workshop Participants 2013

Career Development Mar 2013 webinar (Concept Sketches)

Preparing Students in Two-year Colleges for Careers: PI

GSA 2012 Preparing Workforce and Transfer Students in 2YC: PI

Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges: PI

GSA 2013 Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges: PI

InTeGrate Broadening Access Workshop